One month ago today, I lost my older brother Pat to cancer. He wasn’t just my brother. He was a great friend, a role model, and the Godfather to my daughter.
He touched so many lives, as was evident by the crowds of people who came to pay their respects and the many who have reached out to our family. But he did it in a very subtle way. Instead of dishing out advice, Pat led by example. Without ever giving a speech, he taught me about the value of hard work and the importance of family. He taught me how to be a good parent without losing one’s identity. He encouraged me not to give up during rocky times in my career. He taught me how to root for the Red Sox unconditionally.
But perhaps the best lesson he taught me — and everyone who knew him — was how to live life to the fullest and not let a terrible disease dictate how you spend your days. In the summer of 2012, he was diagnosed with colon cancer that had already spread to his organs. And yet, rather than waste any time wallowing, he lived his life. He went on vacations with his wife and two sons, he worked, he went to the gym, he went to football games, he went to concerts, and he did it all with a positive outlook.
It’s nothing short of a miracle that he was able to fight for as long as he did. Perhaps it was his stubborn will to keep going for his friends and family, or the fact that he had always been in great shape. I’m sure it was both, combined with the fact that he received treatment at a top cancer facility, where he was put on a course of therapy that enabled him to return to something close to a normal life.
We were all extremely grateful that he was able to get into such a renowned facility, but it wasn’t easy. In fact, it took a gentle nudge from a family member who is heavily involved in Stand Up 2 Cancer to get Pat an appointment.
And to me, that just isn’t right. As an industry, we need to do better than that.
I thought of this during my recent interview with Dan Waltz, CIO at MidMichigan Health, who talked about what really motivates him:
“I always think about why I’m working in healthcare, and it’s because if my mom, my sister, my wife, or my kid comes in this health system, I want them to get the best possible care. I use that when I talk to my staff. I’ll say, ‘If this was my mom here, what would you do?’ Sometimes they think differently when it’s one of their relatives or their wife or their kids in the health system. They think, ‘If that was mine, I would do this.’ Well, let’s do that then. That’s one of the things we try to do.”
I couldn’t have said it better. When we talk about wait times for patients, duplicate tests, down times, and anything else that can interfere with providing the best possible care, perhaps we need to pretend that the patient is a family member.
Would you be okay with telling your parent, spouse, sibling, or child that he or she can’t be admitted unless they flash a VIP card, or that a glitch caused an issue that was 100 percent preventable? I don’t think so. So why should others get anything less?
I realize this isn’t a problem that can be solved overnight, but it can be solved over time. Every patient deserves the best possible chance for a quality experience and a quality outcome.
For people like Pat, we need to do better.